WMATA Begins a New Capital Needs Inventory

June 6th, 2016

Restoring Metro’s reliability and quality requires a comprehensive approach to asset management and reinvestment.


Capital needs include escalator replacement, as pictured here.

In April, Metro staff commenced the important work of updating its Capital Needs Inventory (CNI), a financially unconstrained prioritized plan of capital needs that documents Metro’s infrastructure, vehicle, facility, technology, and system capacity investment needs over an immediate to 10-year horizon, and provides input to the development of the six-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).  This document, which itemizes and prioritizes the capital investment needs of the entire Authority over a ten-year period, not only informs our jurisdictional partners about funding needs, but is now also a component of the federally required Transit Asset Management Plans outlined in MAP-21.  Importantly, Metro’s CNI effort is occurring at a critical time both for the Authority and within the transit industry. Concurrent with recent asset-related failures on Metro’s rail system, international standards for asset management (ISO 55000) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) proposed rules have recently been published that can help guide the methodology and tools used to develop a best-in-class CNI.

Have we done this before?

Awareness of the need to focus on the maintenance and renewal of Metro’s capital assets has existed since the system opened, but a comprehensive approach to long-term planning for the funding and management of capital assets has been lacking for much of Metro’s history. In the early years of Metrorail operations, the focus of funding campaigns was on construction of the full system. Toward the late 1990s, as the 103-mile rail system neared completion, efforts began to quantify capital improvement needs and to increase the size of the capital improvement program budget. Some key milestones during that period included:

  • 20-Year Capital Improvement Program (1998 R. Harris Study) – This program developed the first significant capital asset database and identified infrastructure renewal requirements based on asset age and condition.
  • 2001 GAO Report, Many Management Successes at WMATA, but Capital Planning Could Be Enhanced – The Government Accounting Office (GAO) called for a long-term strategic plan and capital plan, and an improved capital improvement decision-making In response, Metro completed the following plans:
    • October 2002 – Routes to the Future, A Strategic Plan

Metro last completed a CNI in 2009 (PDF) and used it to help guide the MetroMatters and PRIIA funding discussions in 2010.  However, since the completion of the last CNI and the execution of the six-year Capital Funding Agreement (CFA) in 2010, progress has been made on several aspects of asset management, capital planning and decision-making.  This puts Metro in a position to create a much more rigorous, analytically based, and transparent CNI that can be used over time to better guide and inform funding and capital investment decisions at the Authority.

Among the improvements we seek to impart to this CNI are commitments to:

  • Align decision-making with the objectives of the agency;
  • Utilize asset inventory and condition data in making investment decisions;
  • Determine the value and/or risk of assets to service delivery and safety; and
  • Prioritize investments in a transparent, informed process.

What’s going on now?

The first step in this process is to understand exactly what assets we have, what condition they are in, and analyze them for reinvestment/rehabilitation/replacement needs.  Metro’s Office of Quality and Internal Compliance Operations Office (QICO) is currently evaluating almost 100,000 assets through a Transit Asset Inventory and Conditions Assessment (TAICA) to produce an underlying data set for analysis of future State of Good Repair (SGR) needs in the CNI. The TAICA effort will include the construction of a comprehensive database of existing assets as well as condition assessment of the assets such that they can be consistently rated on a condition scale compatible with the FTA-recommended Transit Economic Requirements Model (TERM).

The TAICA project anticipates completing its initial inventory and condition assessment by October 2016, with preliminary data available prior to that date. This resource will be an important input to the updated CNI.

Meanwhile, On April 28, 2016, the General Manager approved the Capital Needs Inventory Policy/Instruction (P/I 4.12/2) that defines the process and framework for capital investment decision making. The purpose of this policy is to provide “the framework for evaluating and prioritizing Metro’s capital investment needs, with the ultimate goal of informing the development of a capital program that is beneficial and cost-effective and has the greatest strategic impact.”

The policy also identifies four key elements that will help drive the prioritization of asset reinvestment decisions, including

  • Asset criticality;
  • Achievement of strategic objectives;
  • Asset condition; and
  • Asset risk

The Office of Planning is currently working with experts from the industry to develop a draft set of asset prioritization criteria and indices that are aligned with these key elements.  We aim to have a draft CNI document delivered to the Board in December of 2016 and conduct further scenario testing on this product in early 2017.

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  1. Tim
    June 12th, 2016 at 18:01 | #1

    It looks as if SafeTrack is going to finally get the ball rolling on our catch-up to the most recent *minor* repairs (a.k.a. starting to shorten the maintenance backlog).

    On the topic of safety (and additional small capacity improvements), has WMATA considered installing platform-edge doors? It’s a decent safety enhancement for a relatively low cost, and it would make it easier to implement a door-specific boarding/alighting procedure, if desired (I personally would designate the center door as boarding only (the no-bikes rule would have to be repealed), and the doors at the ends of the car alighting only. Since this would mean standing passengers would have to move down towards the ends of the car (that pre-recorded announcement telling people to move to the center of the car would have to be decommissioned, and necessitating a new pre-recorded announcement to be commissioned, making all trains have pre-recorded announcements would be taking advantage of this opportunity)), they would be squished in by boarding passengers– necessitating this next enhancement: open gangways.

    Open gangways have been implemented in subway/heavy rail systems throughout the world (even New York is getting new railcars that will have them–yay!), but most, if not all, US systems don’t have them. Policy makers and officials say having them is detrimental to safety, but the exact opposite is true. It allows passengers to move around the train, allowing them to spread out a little more, meaning it will seem (and be, thanks to passenger movements) slightly more spacious, as with the door-specific boarding/alighting procedure that I was so nit-picky about as to which doors should be which direction. That is the reason why I did center door boarding only and vice versa for the car-end doors: as more people board the train, the passengers already on the train can spread out, and then when they get off, they can distribute themselves among the two alighting doors next to each other (thanks to the open gangways). This could allow for slightly more frequent trains during rush hour if track and tunnel upgrades take place as well. If WMATA could reduce the headway by just 15 seconds, then the minimum headway would be at 120 seconds/2 full minutes, versus 135 seconds/2 minutes 15 seconds. A small reduction like this along with platform edge doors and open gangways could increase the capacity of the core sections and serve as a short-term fix until we can fully fund the separation of the Blue line from the Orange/Silver lines and the Yellow from the Green line. We should also implement all-longitudinal seating at least between the doors at the end of a car to the other set of doors at the other end of the car to allow for more standing room in the center of the car, and have a total of 16 priority seats per car (8 surrounding the 2 center doors, 4 at one set of end-car doors, and 4 at the other set of end-car doors), so the elderly and other passengers who may require seating due to reasons that don’t allow them to stand for prolonged periods of time. Passengers in wheelchairs will need some space, so at each end of the car, 2 transverse seats should be able to fold up to allow for a passenger in a wheelchair to park there, and for the rest of the areas in the car (mainly just the areas between the car-end doors and the physical end of the car), either transverse or longitudinal seating should be implemented. These could all be enhancements added to the future 8000-series, and the 7000-series could be either upgraded or rehabbed to include these, which would make the 7000-series and 8000-series cars compatible.

    The capacity now (in core sections) versus with these enhancements and the 15 second minimum headway reduction, assuming 120 people can fit in one car before the crowding becomes dangerous (and the increase in individual car capacity due to open gangways):

    Current: 960 people per 8-car train, 24,960 people per hour in one direction, 49,920 people per hour in both directions

    Future (assuming a 130 person car capacity with just the extra standing room, and a 10% train capacity increase with the open gangways): ~1140 people per 8-car train, 34,200 people per hour in one direction, 68,400 people per hour in both directions

    Difference: 180 extra people per train, 9,240 extra people per hour in one direction, and 18,480 extra people per hour in each direction.

    You could also upgrade the 7000 series to have open gangways first, once all the 7000-series trains arrive (since at that point they will make up more than half the fleet). Only give them to the 7000’s, 6000’s, 5000’s, and maybe the 2000’s and 3000’s, so that upgrades are not wasted on the 4000’s which are likely to be headed to the scrap yard right after the 1000’s.

    These new enhancements would be built into the 8000’s, and the separated Blue line should be equipped to handle these changes on Day 1 of operation.

    Oh, and by the way, I like the signs/stickers on the platform showing where the 6-car trains end when at a complete stop at the platform. It will definitely reduce running on the platform when passengers see where they end, so they can wait at a spot on the platform accordingly.

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